STROUD District Council is to actively explore vaccinating badgers as an alternative to the Government’s policy of culling the animals.

The Labour group, which leads the ruling rainbow alliance on SDC, has organised a special forum at Ebley Mill to investigate the science behind vaccination.

If, following the event, councillors feel it is a viable option and there is sufficient support among members for vaccinating badgers as a means of curbing the spread of bovine TB, Labour says it will bring forward a motion calling for funding to be set aside in next year’s budget for a vaccination programme.

Monday's forum will feature presentations from several experts on the issue followed by a question and answer session.

Dr Gavin Wilson of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency will speak about the vaccination trials which have been conducted at Woodchester Park while Roger Mortlock, the CEO of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, will talk about the charity’s own vaccination trial.

Dairy consultant Steven Jones will emphasise the importance of bio-security and animal husbandry in disease avoidance and outline practical steps landowners can take to reduce the risk of bovine TB.

The forum has been organised by Labour councillor Paul Denney (Cam), who is strongly opposed to the cull.

"Given its divisive nature, the cost of policing the resulting protests and its questionable impact upon the level of bovine TB in cattle, it is the feeling of myself, my colleagues within the Labour group and many Stroud district councillors from other parties that vaccination of badgers against bovine TB should play a larger and more immediate part in the attempt to eradicate this disease," he said.

Meanwhile, Labour district councillor and former MP David Drew has voiced concerns about the disposal of badgers killed during the cull.

"It’s not clear what will happen or how it will be controlled," he said.

"Sadly this is par for the course, as the rest of this ill-conceived and deeply flawed plan to cull badgers is also unlikely to be monitored and controlled in a way that’s acceptable."

The Government says a pilot cull in west Gloucestershire due to start soon is necessary to halt the spread of bovine TB and is supported by the best available scientific evidence.